RMIT Art Collection Online

15 05 2015

Good news: RMIT have digitally recorded most* items in the RMIT Art Collection and made them available via RMIT Art Collection Online.

Launch media: “RMIT’s art collection has come out of the shadows, offices and walls around the university to reveal more than 1000 artworks in a searchable data base for students and researchers to explore.
The RMIT art collection online is a significant resource, facilitating wide general access to university’s dispersed art collection. It provides an immersive experience combining both technology and education – and allows everyone, everywhere with access to technology to explore the treasures held – including fine art, photography, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, new media and a ground-breaking sonic arts collection.

The ‘About’ section of the Online site states: “The collection comprises more than 1500 works of art in a wide array of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings, gold and silversmithing, and works in new media. Many of the works are on display throughout RMIT’s campuses, and form an important component in exhibitions at RMIT Gallery. Works from the collection are also regularly loaned for exhibition to other institutions, both within Australia and internationally.


Not-so-good news: so to my main interest, the gold and silversmithing collection under the auspices of the W.E. McMillan collection.

No, none of the items have been included in this online repository. Hence my most* statement above.

So while the RMIT collection does in fact include gold and silversmithing, they’re not (yet?) actually included in this excellent online resource (nor are they on display anywhere as far as I know).

I’ve written a number of times before about my desire for more student and public access to the W.E. McMillan collection:

To that end, late last year I wrote to the RMIT Gallery and expressed my interest in volunteering my time to specifically support work on this collection. I received an encouraging reply: “Plans are indeed underway to improve access to the McMillan Collection, both online and via permanent display. However, progress is slow …” “I’ll be very happy to keep you up to date on future projects and volunteering opportunities

I thought this was pretty exciting … however I’ve heard nothing since. I was offering them free time, along with some experience and knowledge with handling such items.
I could help make progress not-so-slow, right?!

The RMIT collection

21 04 2011

Last year I wrote a few posts on the various public and private collections, and particularly was interested in the collection accumulated over time by RMIT from acquisitive prizes, called the W.E. McMillan Collection.

To quote the previous post:

… what would I ideally like to happen with this collection:

  • for it to be photographed and available digitally as an online resource (perhaps also published in a book)
  • for it to be physically available to students at RMIT and in fact the public (I expect all the pieces are sitting in cupboards wrapped in acid-free paper and not seen by anyone)
  • does the collection have a curator? how are the pieces cared for (are they ‘cared for’ or maintained)?

I’ve been thinking more about this lately. The first step is for the collection to be catalogued and photographed [which would necessitate the pieces to be cleaned etc.]; with the images and details to be available online. A book / catalogue may even be a possible output too.

An additional resource may be their slides / photographic collection too (I remember seeing a small group when I was studying there, and I expect there to be a resonable-sized set) – getting that entirely catalogued and online too.

This would mean that the collection, which would be the most amazing resource, would be online for RMIT students, and students and jewellery lovers worldwide (with appropriate copyright protection / practices of course!).

Naturally I plan on discussing this idea with the RMIT staff; but in the meantime, does anyone have any ideas of specific grants available for such a project?

My thoughts are that this project would be time-consuming, perhaps need specialised people or at least experienced for the cleaning, and photography would be a reasonable amount of work and cost too; and scanning of the slides / photographs if that becomes part of the project.

I’d think this is a project of national interest, given the sheer scale of the collection and the continuous timeline it would represent.

What are your thoughts?

Artist profile: Claire O’Halloran

1 10 2009

It has been quite a while since my last Artist Profile (Katherine Wheeler; and before that Nicole Polentas); and following her fabulous success in the recent RMIT postgraduate awards [see here], I thought Claire O’Halloran would be the perfect subject for more insights into makers and their art.

All images used with permission of the artist; all rights belong to the artist; photographed Jeremy Dillon.

Necklace for The Grande; image used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Necklace for The Grande 2009

Claire started her RMIT degree at the same time as I did, and Katherine and Nicole – yes, I am being parochial in my selection of artists to profile! During her degree Claire started to explore the ideas she is now carefully expressing, and commenced her experimentation with the techniques she is continuing to refine.

Claire’s website states: “My work has increasingly become about notions of memory and nostalgia – how events, people and places are remembered.

(1) What have you been up to since we graduated from our RMIT undergraduate degree (at the end of 2006)?

I really wanted to travel after finishing my undergraduate degree, so I worked for the first half of 2007 and saved money for a trip to South East Asia, China and Nepal with James (my husband).  We were away for six months and I loved the travelling lifestyle and just being in places where everything is so different to what you know.  I have particularly beautiful memories of walking in the Himalaya Mountains, and I hope to use some of the photos I took on our ten-day trek in my jewellery at some stage in the near future.  I also had my work in a couple of exhibitions in 2007 including the Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Exhibition at Buda in Castlemaine.

In 2008 I decided to be practical and undertook a Grad Dip in Teaching.  It was a demanding course and jewellery-making was sadly neglected during this time.  By the beginning of this year, however, I had bought a kiln and began making my first serious piece since 2006 (Necklace for The Grande [above]). Shortly after, I found out that I had been accepted in the Master of Fine Arts at RMIT and began studying again.

See image of a piece Claire had in BUDA in 2007 here (p17); or below.

Claire was also involved in the following:

Enamel bowl 2006; photograph used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Enamel bowl 2006

(2) Where are you currently exhibiting? Any upcoming shows?

Recently my work has been shown in It’s Got Legs – the RMIT Postgraduate and Alumni exhibition.  It was a very beautiful show so I was honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Diana Morgan Postgraduate Award.

My first solo exhibition ‘Keepsakes’ opens on the 1st of October 2009 at Hand Held Gallery in Melbourne.

For links to these exhibitions see here and here. ‘Keepsakes‘ runs until 31st October.

(3) I remember enamelling was a practice you found as pleasurable as I did, as evidenced by its strong presence in your body of work – what is it that you enjoy and why do you feel it particularly suits the work you want to make?

From the beginning, I felt really privileged to learn enamelling – and especially to learn it from someone like Kirsten [Haydon], who I admire very much.  I think partly I love the fact that enamelling is an ancient process, but one that we are still practicing and teaching – I like that continuity with the past.  I also enjoy the process itself – especially the magical aspect of the enamel bonding with the metal in the kiln.  I love the surfaces it can create – smooth and shiny or rough like crystallised sugar.  In terms of the content of my work, I feel that the use of enamel helps to create a sense of ‘preciousness’, which is partly to do with its history, the fact that enamelling is so labour-intensive, and those beautiful surfaces I mentioned.

Mt Fuji 2006; photograph used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Mt Fuji 2006

(4) I really like the necklace on your website [the first image above], this is a gorgeous progression; what are the ‘beads’ made of? Also, I notice your work is balanced between small enamelled bowls and wearable pieces (mostly brooches) – do you see yourself favouring or moving toward any one form in the near future?

Thank you!  The beads used in the necklace are pieces of enamelled copper tubing.  The bowls were made first and were a direct reference to crockery from the 1940s and 50s that used images to commemorate sites – often tourist sites – in Australia.  Sometimes they commemorate well-known tourist sites and sometimes they commemorate quite daggy places, like for example the ‘Bathanga Bridge, near Albury’.  I’m really interested in the latter kind and took a tour around country Victoria visiting ‘unremarkable tourist destinations’ – many of which were known to me from family holidays during my childhood – to gather my own images for the bowls I created.  Then later I thought it would be good to complement the bowls with some wearable pieces.  I chose to make brooches because I had been looking at those little pins that you can buy from tourist attractions.  I do enjoy making brooches.  I think it’s because they are like a little canvas  – but one that you can wear and take with you wherever you go.  I’m just starting to become really interested in neckpieces, though, and I think I’ll be making more of those soon.

(5) What do you like most about making?

I really love the fact that through making, you transform those ideas you have into something material.  That seems obvious, I guess, but I do love having that physical object in my hand at the end of the process – though sometimes it might be a little different to how I first dreamed it.  Having said that, I’m also the sort of person who really enjoys process itself (as do many jewellers).  I do actually enjoy firing multiple coats of enamel and creating multiple solder joins.  And I love the fact that making is often about problem solving, and that I’m constantly learning about the materials and techniques I work with.

claire_slide2005_adj claire_slide_2009_adj

The pieces above are among my favourites: Slide Brooch 2005 and Slide Brooch 2009. I remember Claire making the first one in our second year; and I love that she’s done a companion piece.

Claire and I sat next to each other in the first two years of our degree, and had a draw each in the pedestal between us. Over time we were able to discern each others stress level by certain indicators – the more tense I was, the more I entered into one-sided dialogue with my metal and tools (yes, I talked to my tools). Claire’s stress level was directly proportional to how far she pulled and left her draw out.

(6) Do you still leave your draws out when you’re feeling tense?

Yes – but now I have four draws to leave hanging out!  In the run up to the opening of ‘Keepsakes’ the draws have been left hanging out quite a lot.

(7) What is the next step for your work / What does the next year or two hold for you?

Next year I’ll be mostly occupied looking after our new baby, but I intend to keep working when I can and I want to extend on ideas relating to travel and tourist destinations.  I’ve been interested in mountains for a while and I’ve just finished reading a biography of Freda Du Faur who was an Australian and the first woman to climb Mt Cook in New Zealand in 1910.  I think it could be interesting to make some jewellery around mountains and early female mountaineers.  I’d also like to learn some more techniques, particularly repousee and chasing.  After a break next year, I’ll return to my MFA in 2011.

Lily Brooch 2006; photograph used with artist permission; copyright belongs to the artist

Lily Brooch 2006

Claire was very much a calming influence on my first few years in goldsmithing; her gentleness and placidity were the perfect counterpoint to my occasional periods of discombobulation! I love that she found her muse so early in her making, with the souvenir and memory playing a significant role in her degree work; and that her art portrays those intents so beautifully.

Best of wishes to Claire for her imminent special arrival.

Be sure to visit Claire’s upcoming exhibition, opening tonight; I am given to understand that the work is a further evolution of her work, and includes pieces similar to those that won the Diana Morgan award.

All images used with permission of the artist; all rights belong to the artist.

… previous artist profile: Katherine Wheeler

Artist Profile: Nicole Polentas

13 05 2009

With some of her work currently showing in the ‘Paper Text‘ exhibition at Studio 20/17 (Sydney, until 30th May), I thought it would be great to chat with Melbourne-based maker Nicole Polentas.

Nicole Polentas; Exile: The Blackest Night necklace 2008; silver, gold, copper, plastic, epoxy, image, glass powder, paint, pearls; 420 x 180 x 60 mm

Exile: The Blackest Night, necklace 2008-2009; silver, gold, copper, plastic, epoxy, image, glass powder, paint, pearls

What have you been up to since we graduated from our RMIT undergraduate degree (at the end of 2006)?

Since I graduated from the undergraduate degree I decided to return to study and undertook an MFA (Masters in Fine Art) by coursework. I wanted to develop a process that I could use as a way of making objects that would become part of my identity as a maker. During the MFA I was trying to push the boundaries of what a jewellery object can be and what meanings it can project. I was experimenting with traditional and non-traditional processes and materials.
I exhibited at Galerie Marzee in the international graduate show in the Netherlands (in 2007) and also at Talente in Munich (in 2008). I was also commissioned by Kraft to make a gold commemorative jar for Vegemite (in 2008). I was also awarded the first prize for the Diana Morgan gold and silversmithing alumni and postgraduate show (in 2008). I recently returned from a trip to The Netherlands which I was involved in and helped manage the group show “Jewellery Topos” at Galerie Marzee. I am currently undertaking a research degree at RMIT.

Wow! See the below links for more details and images:

I have found some more information and images of other work Nicole has also exhibited:

Oil Bowl

Oil Bowl, 2008

Where are you currently exhibiting? Any upcoming shows?

I am currently exhibiting in ‘Paper Text‘ at Studio 20/17 in Sydney.
And I will be in the upcoming show at BUDA.

  • ‘Paper Text’ runs at Studio 20/17 until 30th May 2009.
  • The BUDA show isContemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Exhibition‘ and is showing 6th – 21st June 2009.
Nicole Polentas; Untitled (bracelet); 2006; Sterling silver, plastic, copper and image; Photography by Jeremy Dillon

When Water Spills Over (bracelet); 2006; Sterling silver, plastic, copper and image; Photography by Jeremy Dillon

What has been your most exciting / rewarding experience over the last two years?

The trip to Galerie Marzee to see my work in Europe; and when I was awarded an Australian postgraduate scholarship to continue studies for the next 2 years.

4. What is the next step for your work?

As I am undertaking my MA I am researching the ways that jewellery objects can provide a sense of place through the exploration of collective memory, within my cultural background. I am traveling to Crete to research and experience the landscape and aim to engage in a social enquiry into cultural memory, to gain first hand resources that will inform my jewellery objects.


My Black Night, 2008

It has been wonderful to see the vision Nicole is now expressing as it has developed from her first steps in that direction during our degree – her work is beautiful and always impeccably made. Her investigation into a sense of place, and identity through place, is one I connect with strongly; and it heartens me to see her hard work and talent is being recognised both locally and internationally.

All  images used with permission of the artist.